Nominet, the a not-for-profit company which registers UK domain names, has paid out more than £100,000 to its former Director of Legal and Policy following an Employment Tribunal claim for constructive dismissal and disability discrimination.
Following reporting restrictions being lifted by the Employment Tribunal, The Telegraph covered the story, having obtained documents to the case. As it’s just an Employment Tribunal decision we don’t have access to a written judgement or the full facts of the case. However, some details can be gleaned from the Telegraph article and a statement on the Nominet website.
The Claimant, Mrs Taylor, was Nominet’s Director of Legal and Policy and had been employed by the not-for-profit company since 2000. Mrs Taylor resigned from Nominet in 2009, claiming constructive dismissal and disability discrimination after a long period of stress-related sick leave.
Prior to her resignation Mrs Taylor filed a 37 page grievance against her colleagues at Nominet covering a broad range of issues. However, one of her key concerns was over changes made by the company’s Board to the independent governance review of its management practices.
After Mrs Taylor submitted her grievance she claimed that she had been frozen out of high level policy discussions. Mrs Taylor argued that this exclusion combined with a lack of support from her colleagues in dealing with a hostile Board had exacerbated her stress.
Nominet argued that it removed Mrs Taylor from policy discussions in order to protect her health and claimed that it was not appropriate to continue discussions with Mrs Taylor for fear of aggravating her stress.
However, the Tribunal found that Nominet had used Mrs Taylor’s disability as a “pretext” for removing her from discussions and that this was “not the real reason” for her marginalisation. Mrs Taylor was awarded more than £100,000 in damages for constructive dismissal through disability discrimination. The “deception” by the Nominet management in relation the exclusion was a significant factor in the case and resulted in an award of aggravated damages.
1. It is unusual for a restricted reporting order to be made by the Tribunal, however the Tribunal does have that power when:
- the claim potentially effects national security,
- involves alleges of a sexual nature, or
- evidence of a sensitive nature being given about a disability or
- involves issues surrounding article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (right to privacy and a family life).
2. The level of compensation awarded is high - this is a useful reminder to employers of the potential cost of discrimination claims.
The Telegraph reported that Nominet had spent several times more than the award of compensation in legal fees to defend the claim. If this information is accurate, the claim will have cost Nominet over £300,000 - a cost that most non-for-profit organisations would struggle to pay.
3. The award of aggravated damages is fairly unusual and serves as a warning to employers not to try to deceive a claimant or the Tribunal.
The Tribunal has jurisdiction to award aggravated damages when the Respondent has aggravated the claimant's injury by acting in a “high-handed, malicious, insulting or oppressive manner”.